First, evidence use is inherently political. It is often constrained in low and middle-income countries by authoritarian, politicised and fragmented institutions, which are hobbled by financial constraints, low technical or policy experience among civil servants and high levels of corruption. Despite these challenges, many countries are embarking on reforms that create momentum for evidence-informed policy. Building capacity for evidence use means thinking and working politically to harness these windows of opportunity, and effectively navigating political economy constraints that can undermine meaningful reform. Second, changing ways of working requires thinking beyond ‘skills’ to build capacity at multiple levels of complex government systems. Individual capacity (in terms of knowledge, skills, confidence and commitment) is the bedrock of effective evidence use, but programmes also need to harness organisational processes, management support and wider incentives for people to change ways of working, and make sure interventions join up to have a system-wide effect. Finally, external partners should accompany change, not impose it. Government reform processes are unpredictable and highly contextspecific, meaning that it is rarely clear at the outset what will work. Success is more likely when programmes accompany government partners through a process of change in a flexible, tailored and collaborative way, rather than providing ad hoc support through one-off activities.